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Mine PILs get a push

Cuttack, Feb. 24: Justice M.B. Shah Commission’s recommendation for a CBI probe into mining scam in the state has given a fillip to the pending PILs in Orissa High Court.

One of the PIL petitioners has filed a fresh application, seeking its direction for a CBI probe “in view of the recommendation made by the Shah commission and the affidavits filed by the Union of India and the CBI before Orissa High Court”.

After analogous hearing on seven PILs, the high court had reserved judgment on April 18, 2011. The verdict has since been due.

The Centre, during the course of adjudication, had in an affidavit apparently made it clear that it would not oppose the state government’s decision rejecting a CBI probe. The Centre also indicated that it was up to the high court to take a final decision on the issue.

By deciding against taking a position on the issue, the Centre had effectively expressed trust in professional competence of the state vigilance to handle the case.

“Considering the gravity of matter and loss sustained, if the high court so desire, any agency of Government of India can be called upon to investigate as per the due procedure laid down including the Central Bureau of Investigation, the government is willing to offer all necessary assistance in the matter,” the Union of India stated in its affidavit.

The CBI, on the other hand had, said in an affidavit: “We are ready to offer our services if the court recommends a probe by the agency into the alleged cases of illegal mining.” The central investigating agency, however, expected “infrastructure, logistics and manpower support from the state government”.

Senior advocate Narsingh Mishra moved the application before the division bench of Chief Justice A.K. Goel and Justice A.K. Rath on behalf of petitioner, Rini Rath, on March 20. The bench agreed to look into the matter.

According to the Shah commission report on allegations of corruption in mining sector in various states, there is a scam of Rs 67,000 crore in Odisha, Rath said in her fresh petition.

Adjudication of the PILs had centred on contentions directed against alleged inadequacies in infrastructure and limitations of the state vigilance as influential persons having connection with government officials were involved in the scam.

The state government opposed a CBI probe, claiming the state vigilance to be competent having necessary logistics and manpower to conduct the investigation.

Besides, a CBI probe is not necessary as the central empowered committee of the Supreme Court had already inquired into illegal mining in Odisha and the Centre has appointed a a commission of inquiry to probe into illegal mining across the country, the state government said.

The alleged scam involving illegal mining and smuggling out of manganese from mines that had not been leased out in Keonjhar had rocked the Naveen Patnaik-led BJD government in the state, forcing it to order an inquiry by the state vigilance in July 2009.